English peas are nature’s superior answer to fast food. Sweet and crisp, they taste best popped straight from the shell into the mouth; no need to bother with cooking. At this time of year peas are abundant, and when I go to the farmers’ market I find myself using up all of my spare money on brown bags overflowing with peas. Today was no different: I came home from the market with several pounds of peas, cascading out of their overstuffed bags, mingling with bunches of fresh mint, chives, and edible kale flowers. Once home, I quickly confiscated a singular bag to stash away and later transform into a pea puree while the rest of the family and visiting friends grabbed handfuls of peas as they passed through the kitchen.
The pea puree is delicious as is, but my favorite way to serve it is with shellfish. The briny sweetness of shrimp, scallops or lobster is a perfect compliment to the sweetness of the peas, while the pearly coral colors of the shellfish contrast beautifully with the vivid green pea color. I like to present the following recipe in small glasses or demi-tasse cups with the shellfish perched on top.
Sautéed Garlic Shrimp with Minted Pea Purée and Pecorino
Serves 8 as an appetizer
2 cups shelled English peas
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 large garlic clove, minced
16 large shrimp, peeled with tails intact, deveined
2 tablespoons dry white wine
Pecorino Romano shavings
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh chives for garnish
Kale flowers (optional)
Prepare Pea Purée:
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the peas. Reduce heat and simmer until peas are tender. Remove from heat; drain peas, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
Combine peas and 1/4 cup cooking liquid in food processor and purée until smooth. Add more water to desired consistency. Transfer to bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil, Pecorino and fresh mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan. Add garlic and chili flakes. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add shrimp in one layer and cook, turning once, until pink on the outside and opaque in the center, about 1 minute per side. Add wine and cook 30 seconds to allow alcohol to evaporate. Remove from heat. Divide warm pea purée among 8 demi-tasse cups or martini glasses. Arrange 2 shrimp over purée. Top with Pecorino shavings, freshly ground black pepper and drizzle olive oil over. Garnish with chives and edible flowers.